More Water

This week’s field class involved some more water work.

We started the evening in one of Susie’s shallower ponds. Arizona wasn’t too sure about getting in, but with some extra encouragement, she did it!! She swam right to the duck, came straight back and held it firmly until I said “give.”

The second attempt went better, only a slight hesitation – GOOD GIRL!!!

When Ari was done, we took her back to the car because the mosquitoes were pretty bad. We forgot to put repellent on her and us. Huib found the dogs’ herbal mosquito and tick repellent in the field gear bag, but ours was missing, so we decided to try out theirs. It works surprisingly well, and doesn’t smell bad either. I think we’ll keep using it for now.

*****

With Canyon’s seizures, we have to be really careful about the stuff we put on him, as well as what we use around him, so we try to use herbal stuff when possible. There are tick preventatives for dogs, but all of them have been found to have pretty nasty side effects for dogs with seizures, so we have chosen to avoid using them with everyone. Instead, they get Revolution monthly (prevents heartworm, fleas, some ticks and some other parasites), and we have them tested each spring for heartworm and tick-borne diseases, such as lyme.

*****

After all of the dogs – 5 labs and 2 goldens (including Ari) – had their turn, we packed up the gear and moved over to a deeper pond.

Arizona had more trouble with this one. It took a lot of encouragement to get her to jump in, but again, once she was in, she was perfect!!

Her second attempt was a little worse. It might have just been because she had to go to the washroom, but when I sent her, she went to the edge of the pond, walked around a bit, then walked away and relieved herself closer to the trees. When she finished, I called her back, got her set up, and sent her for the duck. She barely hesitated before jumping in.

I am hoping that as we introduce different ponds, she’ll continue to feel more comfortable.

But, like everything else we do, we aren’t in a rush, so she can take her time getting used to things.

Look Who’s Three!!!

Today is a very special day for Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

Arizona is now three years old!!

A lot has happened in the almost three years of having her in our lives.

We have had a lot of ups and downs together, but no matter what, she can always make us laugh.

Despite having to endure almost a full month of Arizona screaming while crated, I still do not regret having her join our family.

Ari is the craziest, most loving and highly entertaining golden girl we know!!

She has taught us tons, and we hope she has learned at least something from us.

No matter what happens during a class, or at a test, we always know Arizona is going to make the experience fun!!

Airy Berry, please don’t ever stop being you!!

HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!!!

Too Cold

Today’s field class was in the water.

Arizona wasn’t so sure she wanted to go in…

It took a lot of convincing, both from us and the gunners…

Once in, she went straight for the duck, then swam right back to me. She came out of the water, dropped the duck at my feet, and waited. I asked her to sit, but she refused, so after a few requests, she finally did. Then I asked her to shake, blowing in her face, before asking her to sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Then, we did it all again.

It took even more convincing the second time to get her to go into the pond. I wonder if she felt it was too cold.

Once in, she went to the duck, came right back and handed it to me – Good Girl!! I took the duck, asked her to sit, then shake, and sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Now that the warmer weather has arrived, Huib and I are going to try and get Ari swimming at least a few times a week.

Despite hesitating to go into the water, Arizona showed a lot of progress. Unlike previous years, she didn’t refuse to retrieve the duck or to bring it right back. So we’ll definitely call this a WIN!!

More Field

Sorry for the lack of entries, but life got a bit busy.

Field class continues to be going well for Arizona. Other than some minor issues during an indoor class, she has been rocking the retrieves.

We have had a lot of rain, so a few weeks ago, we had an indoor class. There were about six dogs present. Susie had us begin by walking our dogs around the room at the same time. Ari was really excited at first, but after a couple of laps, she calmed down and I had her walking really nicely. She had no problems passing the flat-coats or the lab, but every time we passed a toller, she wanted to play, lol!!

After a bit, we were each given a couple of bumpers to practice the retrieve and ‘hold’ with our dogs. Arizona was really distracted at first, but then became unsure. There were some dogs barking and some owners being a bit more firm with their dogs, so I think it made her nervous.

After talking to a couple of other friends who use mainly positive reinforcement with their dogs, I think her reaction was a side effect of our training choices. All of us have noticed similar behaviours in our dogs, they all seem a bit more sensitive to seeing or hearing other dogs disciplined. It’s not that we do not discipline our dogs, it’s that we do it in a less harsh manner.

Once we figured out she was nervous, we stoped trying to get her to take the bumper, and just sat on the floor with her, letting her observe everyone else. After about 15 minutes, I did some level 1 behaviours with her, to get her back “into the game,” and offered the bumper. She took it!!

Susie then had us all line up and send our dogs one at a time to retrieve a duck. Arizona was great!!

Arizona is fine at shows and other dog events, so we aren’t sure if it would be worthwhile signing her up for an actual indoor group class, but we are considering it.

The temperatures continue to be on the cooler side, so we haven’t been able to do any water work yet. Arizona is rocking the land retrieves though.

While we wait for things to warm up, I am working on lengthening her ‘hold,’ and making sure she gets an opportunity to retrieve a variety of ducks. This week, she retrieved two very smelly, squishy ducks. I so badly wanted to refuse to take them, but obviously I had to pretend she was giving me the best gift ever, lol!!

If she continues to retrieve like this, then I think we are going to have a really good field season.

Biking

Last fall, Huib bought a bike, and then several months ago, he got an attachment for the dogs. A few weeks ago, he got the bike out and started teaching the dogs to run alongside him.

The first couple times he took them out, it was slightly warm, so he did not take Canyon out as long as the girls. With his seizures, Canyon runs the risk of heat stroke, even when the temperature is just over 20 degrees celsius.

Of the three, Arizona loves it the most. Huib usually goes about four kilometres with her. He says nothing seems to distract her, that no matter what they pass, she just continues going straight ahead. I think she loves the speed.

Canyon only tends to go about 1.5 kilometres. Unlike Arizona, Canyon thinks he needs to pull the bike, so Huib is finding it more difficult to adjust speeds with him. As they work together, he’s getting better, so hopefully he’ll stop being a pain soon.

Rogue usually goes for two kilometres or so. The first few times they were out, she kept pulling further away from the bike. I think she thought it was going to eat her, lol!! The last time they were out, Huib said she did a lot better, so I think he’ll probably start going further with her as well.

Guelph is a very hilly city, so poor Huib is pretty tired once he’s taken the three dogs out. They all seem to really like it though, so I think he’s going to try and get them out at least a few times a week.

Field Class

Arizona had her first field lesson of the season and it went GREAT!!

We have been working all winter on her ‘hold’ and on ‘delivering to hand,’ but we have not done any work with ducks since the fall.

There were about eight dogs, including Arizona and Canyon, who came to class. There were: 2 flat-coated retrievers, 3 duck tolling retrievers, a lab and our 2 golden retrievers.

Canyon was our muscle. We didn’t know how driven Ari would be to retrieve ducks, so we brought Canyon to encourage her. They are very competitive with one another, so he does a great job of motivating her to cooperate.

Since there were several new dogs, Susie had them all start by retrieving a bumper from a short distance. Arizona was all over this!!

The dogs then had to retrieve a bumper from a farther distance. “No problem!” says Ari.

Finally, Susie got out the ducks and had us all practice with our own dog.

I worked with Arizona, while Huib tossed the duck from a variety of distances. Arizona was freaking awesome!! Other than me fumbling and dropping one duck, she handed every single one to me.

After several tosses, we put Ari into her crate and got out Canyon. With his seizures he cannot do any of the water work, so he loves when we let him play.

Unfortunately, he was a bit of a pain in my butt and instead of handing me the duck, he’d come close, then turn and lie down to start mouthing it – bad boy!! I guess we need to work on this.

If this is any indication of how Arizona will do in field this year…I’m getting pretty excited.

Working Dog Conference: Calgary

Around 3:30am Friday, we woke up and began to get ready to head to the airport. Our luggage was packed, we just needed to add our toiletries after we were dressed. Once they were in, we secured the suitcases with zip ties and Huib put them in the car. While he was putting stuff into the car, I got the last of the stuff into a bag for the goldens to take to Mandi’s house, and double-checked that I had everything for Rogue.

We didn’t want anyone to have an accident before Dad woke up, so we left him food for everyone. Mandi was coming to get the goldens in the afternoon, so he just had to worry about them until she arrived.

Our trip to the airport was uneventful. We parked the car in a Park and Fly lot, then took a shuttle over to the terminal. We were glad we arrived on the early side because the baggage check-in line was really slow moving. At the front, they weighed our bags and then asked us to wait, so they could make sure the next people knew a service dog was coming. I’m not sure why they felt this was needed, but we had time to spare, so it wasn’t a big deal.

At security, I asked Rogue to sit and then I walked through. Huib planned to go after me, so that Rogue wouldn’t be worried about me leaving her behind. It worked out great. I thought they would ask me to take everything off her, but it didn’t happen, so when I called her through, she came running with her leash dragging behind.

We still had an hour or so to kill before we would be boarding, so we had some breakfast at Tim Hortons.

About 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off, they began to board everyone. We were in zone five, or about the middle of the plane, so we got in line. Rogue was a complete professional about it all. She patiently waited beside me and then once we were on the plane and I removed her handle, she curled up for a nap. She woke up a bit when we first took off, but once she knew there was nothing to worry about, she fell back asleep.

I read through my presentation notes a couple of times during the first part of the flight, then fell asleep for a bit. I think even Huib slept some.

Once we began descending, Rogue woke up, so I gave her some treats. When it was time to get off the plane, she walked nicely at my side.

At the baggage area, we waited a short time for our suitcases. While waiting, they announced that a person’s carry-on had been mistakenly taken by another passenger. It was a black bag, so probably an honest mistake, but who knows because they were still making the announcement as we left the airport.

We got a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We planned to see if we could drop the bags off, so we wouldn’t have to drag them around the city while we waited for our room, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could check-in. The hotel had a room available on our floor, they assign all dogs to one floor, so they gave us an upgrade and we got a suite for two days!!

The room was great!! We had a small kitchenette with a sink, counter, table with chairs, a bar fridge and a microwave, a decent size living room with a TV, love seat and two chairs, then a bedroom with a king-size bed and a small bathroom. I thought it might be good to relax a bit before we went walking and for lunch, so we all settled in the living room. I read through my notes until I fell asleep, while Huib watched a bit of TV and dosed and Rogue slept on my legs and then in one of the chairs.

We walked for about three hours!! We checked out the mall and bought a few things. We walked the streets and along the pedestrian paths, stopping to take pictures in front of statues and to check out various stores. There were a lot of ‘interesting’ people along the way.

There was a woman walking along carrying her pants and shoes. I asked Huib if maybe he should stop and ask if she needed help, but he explained that there was another woman who appeared to be trying to help her. I guess he was right, because a bit later, we walked by them and she had helped the woman get dressed and was trying to convince her to come somewhere. At another spot, we passed a man loudly talking on his cell. It’s always funny to enter a conversation part way through. As we were passing, he said: “she got canned today too!!” Finally, there was another man talking on his phone, and as we passed by he was complaining to whoever he was talking to about the fact that he had been cut down to “just a pound and a half of medical marijuana.”

We then went back to the hotel for an hour to relax and drop our purchases off.

In the evening, we went for another walk. This time, we walked by the Bow River. It is a really nice spot to walk.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 8:30am. The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so we got dressed and went down for food. It was a pretty good buffet. We had eggs, potatoes, grapefruit, orange juice and coffee. I had a croissant and Huib had a waffle. When we got back upstairs, Huib surprised Rogue with a couple of sausages to add to her pork rib breakfast.

I still needed to memorize my conference notes, so we spent a bit of time in the room before we went touring. We walked around Bow River, checking out the island in the middle. They created a really nice park on the island, with pedestrian bridges crossing over to it, so we walked around most of it. We also checked out some more stores. I almost bought a jacket for running, but it was only $20 off, so we decided to just wait because it was also on the bigger side.

For our last night in Calgary, we decided to go for a little bit of a fancy dinner. We walked around for over an hour and a half trying to decide where we wanted to eat, but there were too many options. Finally, we chose a place called The Gild. This place had caught our eye earlier that day because they had whole pig parts hanging in glass sided fridges to age. We thought it looked pretty interesting.

On the menu outside it listed meals from $40 to over $100. Once inside, we learned that the majority of the choices over $100 were meant to be shared, so I guess that actually isn’t too bad. When Huib read those options, he learned that they were 85% protein, so you got small sides and then a ridiculously huge portion of beef or something else.

I chose an applewood smoked half chicken meal that came with a cool poutine like side and grilled veggies. It was fries with chicken gravy, peas, shredded chicken and cheese – very yummy!! I also had a mimosa, a drink that contains champaign and orange juice.

Even though Alberta only recognizes program-trained service dogs, I did not get asked once about Rogue. The only comments I got were about how well-behaved and good looking she is.

Calgary is a pretty neat city. I think I would like to go back some day to see more of it.

This and That

It has been a great weekend for tracking. The weather has been a bit icky, but Rogue, Canyon and Arizona don’t seem to have noticed.

Saturday afternoon we got together with Laura and Annie at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Annie hopes to do a test with Trixie and Maestro mid-May, so Laura wanted to get them into the fields. Since Canyon is learning and Arizona needs the practice, Laura invited us to come out as well.

Rogue absolutely loves tracking, so I couldn’t leave her out.

Canyon had a pretty rough tracking experience last week, so I suggested Huib handle him. Huib is able to see what he’s doing and Canyon isn’t as protective of him, so I thought we should try switching for a bit. We don’t know if it was the seizures last weekend, or the handling change this week, but Canyon did a fabulous job!!

I asked Huib what he does differently, and he said the only thing he can think of, is that he keeps Canyon close. He doesn’t give him as much line as I do. Next week, I will try it out and see if it makes a difference.

Arizona was next. Other than missing an article in a highly mousey area, she did a great job. She got a bit distracted in a couple of spots, but Huib was easily able to redirect her attention back to the track. Laura says she has really matured since November.

Rogue was the last to track. Like Arizona, she missed one article, but did the rest beautifully. Rogue’s missed article was covered with snow. It has been over four months since she last tracked in a field, so I was really happy with her work.

This morning we did some urban tracking with just the girls. College Royal is on at the U of G, so Laura had us all (Mary, Kay and John) meet at a high school.

Arizona was first. I don’t think she did anything wrong – way to go baby girl!!!

Even though she needs to earn her TD before she can try for her UTD, I want to keep her working on urban stuff. Arizona is a dog of habit, so if we focus on one thing too much, it becomes difficult to switch over to something different afterwards. That is why we try to always add new aspects to everything she learns, while continuing to practice stuff she knows.

Rogue was the last dog to work. After two consecutive weeks of mistakes, I had my fingers crossed for a good showing – she did not let me down!! She found all of her articles, stayed quite close to the track and found all of her corners. She went the wrong direction once, but only went a metre before stopping and letting me know we needed to go the other way.

I am still on the fence about entering the April UTD test, so we’ll wait and see how she does next weekend.

Canyon joined us, but he did not track. I think it can be easy to overwhelm a dog with new things, so I thought he might retain his lessons better if he doesn’t do consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s true, but maybe by not getting to work every time the others do, his drive will also increase.

I am SO glad the dogs had a good tracking weekend. It can be really discouraging to have several poor outings in a row.

Tracking Frustrations

This week we didn’t have obedience because Huib had to work late and I have been dealing with some weather-related migraines.

**********

This afternoon we had tracking with Laura and others. It was quite a large group: Sandy with Stewart, Mary with Cordelia, Annie with Trixie and Maestro, and then us with Rogue, Arizona and Canyon.

It was a pretty cold day, so Mary brought us all hot chocolate, Sandy brought yummy scones and we brought banana nut bread.

Laura laid tracks for Stewart, Cordelia, Rogue and Arizona before we all arrived, so they would have time to age. She then asked Huib to lay tracks for Trixie and Maestro, while Annie laid a track for Canyon.

Stewart and Cordelia went first. Each of them struggled a bit with their track, but did a good job overall.

Rogue went next. She did a beautiful job on her first leg, but then she got lost on her second and third legs. I’m not sure what messed her up, but it kind of frustrated me. I was probably totally over-thinking things, but I kept wondering if maybe we shouldn’t even consider entering the urban test in April. Laura said the area was quite contaminated and not to worry, and Huib feels the wind might have played a part, but I was still a bit frustrated with Rogue’s work – I’m such a bad handler, I shouldn’t have blamed her for the problems… Rogue did a great job on the rest of her track, so she definitely redeemed herself – good girl!!

I’m still not sure I want to enter the test in April, but I think we have a bit of time to decide.

Arizona was next. She did some great work, but then some not-so-good stuff. She almost missed her first article. Then she got really distracted by a bunch of birds, specifically a fat robin, lol!! I think she also found it tough working close to a fence line.

I’m not sure if it was the cold temperatures or the fact we were working in a school yard, but all of the more advanced dogs seemed to face some challenges today.

Canyon had had a seizure around noon, so we did an easy warm-up track to judge how he was feeling. His last seizure was a mild one on February 3rd. Added to the upcoming snowstorm that is forecasted to hit tomorrow, this is about his regular time for another. His seizure was one of his usual ones, with lots of drooling, muscle tremors, fixed eyes, but totally aware of things around him, and a release of his anal glands. Once it was over, he got up and started begging for my lunch, lol!! The warm-up track went well, so we decided to let him do the one Annie laid.

He found both of the articles and did a great job on the final leg, but he was pretty unsettled. I’m really hoping that as he continues to run tracks, he’ll return to his initial focused working that we witnessed a month ago.

**********

I’m not sure if it’s related to his unsettled work at tracking, but a couple of hours after we got home, Canyon had a second seizure. This one was short, but about the same intensity as the one earlier in the day. I think it might be the upcoming snowstorm that is causing him problems. I sure know it has been causing me issues, with constant migraines and nausea at times.

For both of our sakes, I hope Mother Nature makes up her mind soon and sticks with some sort of weather for a while before changing again.

Progress and Struggles

On Thursday evening we had another obedience class.

Class started with me working in the ring alone. Susie is trying to help me become more confident with the exercises. She is hoping that by practicing each week, it will become less stressful and require very little thought to complete. I do different heeling patterns, walking forward, stopping and turning in various directions. Susie thinks I am looking less uncomfortable each week.

Some dogs, like Rogue, cue off their human’s body language, so if the human knows what they are doing, it’ll be easier to avoid cuing the dog to do the wrong behaviours.

When I was finished, I called Arizona into the ring and we got to work.

Heeling is still an issue, but we have progressed in other areas. Ari did several sit-stays ranging from 15 to 30 seconds long. She stayed in place until I recalled her, and then she stayed until I returned and released her. I also used ‘touch’ to keep her attention off Susie and Huib as they made “beep, beep…” sounds, so I knew where the posts were for the figure eight.

We will get there.

Rogue and Huib were awesome!! Huib has really worked on keeping Rogue’s attention on him, and it has made a huge difference!! He needs to continue working on having Rogue stay until he returns – she gets up as soon as he comes close – but it’ll come. She just needs to learn that when we cue a ‘stay,’ she’s supposed to remain in position, but if we’re just walking around the house, she needs to MOVE.

To add a bit of challenge to our work, Susie suggested we both come into the ring. She had us go to opposite ends of the room and asked us to follow her instructions. Both girls were distracted by the other team. Rogue was distracted by me and Ari, while Arizona was distracted by Huib and Rogue.

We also did a ‘group’ sit-stay. Both girls rocked it!!

Susie says we will do this each week to give the girls some high distraction work. No one is more distracting than your best buddy and your other human.

**********

Saturday morning was Cessna’s annual vet check. I was worried about the large lump under Cessna’s front left leg. It has grown since last year’s appointment, so I thought Bianca might say we needed to have it removed. We were pleasantly surprised to find out she was not really worried, but said we would continue watching it. I am glad because she’s almost 13.5, so I don’t know if it would be good to do surgery, and I don’t think I could decide against it. Cessna is really happy, pretty healthy, and appears to have a lot of life left in her.

Bianca asked a lot of questions about what we are feeding Cessna and what supplements she is getting. She also asked about any illness or concerns. Cessna has lost a whole kilogram since last year, so Bianca wants us to feed her more and to bring in a urine sample. She didn’t have any concerns when she did the physical exam, but did voice her distress regarding Cessna’s coat condition. I told her it hasn’t changed in the past year or so, even though we have tried a number of different options. We will not be vaccinating Cessna anymore, but Bianca still wanted to run Parvo and Distemper titres, along with a geriatric blood panel and a test for Heartworm and tick-borne diseases. The results from the tests should come back in about a week.

After paying, we took Cessna back to the vehicle, and then brought each of the others in to be weighed. All three youngsters need to lose about four pounds!!

**********

In the afternoon, we had tracking with Laura.

Canyon was all over the place for most of his track. He found both articles and did some pretty good work the last 10 metres or so. I think it is just going to take time.

Once he gets the idea, he’s going to be great!!

Arizona was amazing!! She found all of her articles, did some surface changes (crossing over sidewalks), and barely overshot corners. Unlike Rogue, Ari only seems to go a foot or two past her corners before she realizes she has lost scent.

She stopped a couple of times to think, but Laura said that’s normal, so not to worry and not to rush her.

Rogue started off really well, but I think having to relieve herself caused some focus issues. She rarely goes to the washroom when not at home, but we fed them after Cessna’s appointment, so I think her schedule was off.

Rogue missed her first two articles, but found the others. She cut corners in several spots, so I think that might have been why she ended up on the opposite side of the sidewalk from her track at one point.

Rogue has had a really good couple of months for tracking, so it was about time for some mistakes.

I’m thinking about entering her into an urban test at the end of April, so hopefully we’ve got our struggles done for a bit.

Until next time 🙂